Tonight Rook and Moomin and I watched the Obama video “American Stories, American Solutions”. Here is some propaganda I can get behind. It was pitched straight to the middle class. It was a very effective populist message.
I start to cry whenever he says the words “pre-existing conditions”. I believed Obama feels strongly about it and now I know why, that he has personal experience in his family of having to fight your own insurance companies right at the moment when you’re ill or dying and unable to fight hard enough.
Moomin liked the parts about civic responsiblity, jobs, health care, education, and Obama’s promises to be honest and straightforward. He liked the mention of Harry Potter and homework, too.
It’s the civic responsibility message that will turn us around. That it will become unacceptable, unpatriotic, for giant corporations to make obscene profits, at our expense, for them to take our 700 billion dollars of taxpayer money and spend a huge percentage of it on their own executive bonuses, while middle class people lose their homes.
Now, my main criticism of this video is that there is no mention of people who have already slid into poverty or grown up in poverty. I believe Obama’s policies will help people in poverty, with jobs and better access to education, and, I hope, with health care. If he didn’t mention this entire segment of the population, I believe it was strategic. Am I wrong to believe this? That saving the current middle class from homelessness and immediate situational poverty is a good priority? (I’m not sure it is possible; and what might happen instead is the middle class will change its mind about poverty being the fault of the poor.) Anyway, I am sure everyone will notice he is not speaking about poverty here, other than as something almost unimaginable that is looming over people who thought they were securely middle class.
I picture Moomin growing up within a massive cultural shift, one of civic duty, responsibility, being able to work with and even trust “the system” or government institutions. Not because it is possible to legislate institutions to be trustworthy, but because this crisis and a new government’s responses could move people’s ideals closer to public service. I want that public service shifted out of churches and into small local government, federally funded and supported, and into things like Americorps, public works projects, renovating schools, building affordable housing. The amazing campaign structure the Democrats have in place now can be used to organize people for community service and really effective activism.
I know this can’t happen all at once but I think it’s coming. What will happen when Moomin and his classmates grow up believing they can know and understand politics, and can have a part in it? I grew up in the 80s among kids who were apathetic politically and whose “American Dream” was to be rich before they were 30, any way they could. They didn’t care who they exploited, or stepped on, or who around them was poor, or if civilization around them decayed and they lived in a gated community, as long as they could make their millions, while sneering along with Ronald Reagan at “welfare mothers”. I like the idea that THAT attitude will not be the main rhetoric around my child as he grows up. He might grow up in a society where being a civil servant, and a good one, is highly respected.
I will go even further in my position and say that I think we will end up with compulsory civil service. Pre or post-college. We should also have a civil service corps for retirees and a part time structure for stay at home parents and for teenagers still in school. Get some pay, job experience, do some good. Have some different tracks for people to make something of their lives. Rather than “investing” a disgusting, racist, classist prison industrial complex that declares you a felon if you’re poor and lets you walk if you’re not in order to have the result of denying voting rights and any basic civil rights to a whole class of the population. Rather than endless wars and forcing people who are stuck in poverty to sign up to die in them, we could have a choice of military or civil service and focus on rebuilding the infrastructure of our communities and schools. What do you all think about that? Because that’s what I think is coming.